Katherine Coyer remembers feeling a slight pang of resentment as she watched her twin sister, Caroline, take aim at the family’s basketball hoop in suburban Minneapolis, not long before the family moved to northern Virginia.
They were three years old at the time. Caroline was the tomboy who was more concerned with playing with the twins’ older brother, Chris. Katherine was a self-proclaimed girly girl who wasn’t too concerned yet with sports until she observed her sister out on the driveway.
“She would jump off the recycling bin just so she could get the ball closer to the basket,” Katherine recalled with a laugh, “and I remember being so jealous because I wanted to try to do it. But I was probably wearing a dress, so it wasn’t going to work out for me.”
Fast forward about 19 years, and things have worked out quite well. Katherine’s love of basketball caught up with Caroline’s, and the two are part of one of the better backcourts in the nation at Villanova, where Caroline is the team’s starting point guard and leading scorer and Katherine is the team’s starting shooting guard and best defender.
Caroline, a first-team all-Big East selection and the reigning Philadelphia Big 5 Player of the Year, led Villanova in scoring (13.4 points per game), assists (4.4 apg), steals (49) and minutes played (35.5 mpg.) last season as a junior. She followed that up by earning a spot on the United States women’s basketball team that won a silver medal at the Pan American Games in Toronto. And through the Wildcats’ first 22 games of the 2015-16 campaign, she’s averaged 14.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists per contest.
Katherine, who scored a career-high 23 points last March to lead Villanova past St. John’s and into the WNIT quarterfinals, has turned out to be a pretty good player in her own right. The Wildcats’ third-leading scorer at 7.5 points per game last season has routinely drawn the assignment of guarding the opposing team’s top scorer.
Katherine and Caroline Coyer are fraternal twins. They get asked quite frequently about what it’s like, and they’ll tell you they really don’t know anything different. Asked separately, they turn in nearly identical descriptions of the other. Caroline is more of the outgoing hip shooter, while Katherine, Caroline said, “is the smart, funny and quirky one, and she has a very detail-oriented brain. And she would probably say that I’m funnier in an awkward way.”
They look out for each other in an uncanny but altogether humble and self-aware kind of way. For example, while carving out all-state careers as seniors at Virginia’s Oakton High School, Caroline broke the state assist record on a pass to Katherine that led to her sister’s 1,000th career point. After the game, Caroline wasn’t even aware she had broken the record, her father, Chris, said.
The twins, as they’re often called, could have been prized Division I soccer recruits. The difference was that Caroline knew early on that she wanted to play basketball at the next level while Katherine was the better soccer player who took a bit longer to decide which sport she would pursue.
Once the pair decided they would indeed be a package deal that intended to play college basketball at the same program, The Washington Post ran a story about them. Front page of the entire paper, below the fold.
It turned out to be a much-appreciated piece of publicity, but also a learning experience about anonymous commenters who had their own take on the news.
“I thought it was a nice article and we felt fortunate about it,” Caroline said, “but then we had our fair share of people criticizing us, asking if we were sure that we were making the right decision. We were seeing all sorts of stuff in the comments. Caroline’s forcing Katherine to play basketball. They can’t spend their whole lives with each other. It was so bizarre because we didn’t know where it was coming from and it couldn’t be further from the truth.”
As their final season under longtime Villanova coach Harry Peretta moves towards one last Big East tournament next month, Katherine and Caroline admitted they will occasionally think about the fact that they could be in different parts of the world at this time next year. Caroline will most likely play professionally in Europe, and Katherine said she’s looking into the opportunity to potentially play professionally overseas as well while also earning her master’s degree.
All the while, they know they’ve been very fortunate. During their first two seasons at Villanova, Katherine and Caroline enjoyed the benefit of having Chris, their older brother, about 25 minutes away at Temple, where he was playing quarterback and then tight end for the Owls’ football team. They would get to as many of his games as they could and he theirs.
Now that the next chapter of their lives is drawing closer, Katherine and Caroline are trying to savor as much of their time together as they can.
“It’s been a running joke with the team that we’re not going to be with each other much longer,” Katherine said. “We just celebrated our 22nd birthday and it came up again in that we may not be able to celebrate our birthdays together next year. I’m not a crier and I started crying. She’s my best friend, so I’m obviously going to miss her and just try to accomplish as much as we can this season.”
“For me,” Caroline said, “it’s been incredible, but I also don’t know anything different. So I enjoy every minute of it and I’m sure when the time comes when we’re not in the same place or even next year I’ll say, ‘Oh, my gosh, I miss her so much,’ and I’ll think of how great it was to have her by my side. But right now, we’re just enjoying it as much as we can.”